Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hervey, John (1696-1743)

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HERVEY, JOHN, Lord Hervey of Ickworth (1696–1743), the eldest son of John, first earl of Bristol [q. v.], by his second wife, was born on 15 Oct. 1696. He was educated at Westminster School, whence he was removed to Clare Hall, Cambridge on 20 Nov. 1713. He graduated M.A. in 1715, and in the following year visited Paris. From Paris he went to Hanover to pay his court to George I, where he ingratiated himself with Prince Frederick, of 'the blooming beauties of whose person and character' he sent a lively description to his father. Upon his return to England Hervey gave up some thoughts of the army, and spent much of his time at Ickworth, in spite of his father's remonstrances, in 'the perpetual pursuit of poetry.' He frequently visited the court of the prince and princess at Richmond, when he fell in love with Mary Lepell [see Hervey, Mary, Lady], whom he married in 1720. On the death of his half-brother Carr [see under Hervey, John, first Earl of Bristol] in November 1723 he succeeded to the courtesy title of Lord Hervey. At a by-election in April 1725 he was retuned to the House of Commons for the borough of Bury St. Edmunds, and, as a devoted follower of the prince's court, joined Pulteney in his opposition to Walpole. When, however, George II adopted Walpole as his minister Hervey changed sides, and was granted a pension of l,000l. a year. On the meeting of the new king's first parliament in January 1728 Hervey moved the address in the House of Commons (Parl. Hist. viii. 638), but shortly afterwards went with Stephen Fox to Italy, where he remained for the sake of his health some eighteen months. He returned to England in September 1729. Both Walpole and Pulteney bid for his support. Hervey finally broke with Pulteney, and was rewarded by Walpole with the office of vice-chamberlain of the household on 7 May 1730, being admitted to the privy council on the following day. Early in 1731 appeared an anonymous pamphlet entitled 'Sedition and Defamation display'd.'&c, containing a dedication 'to the patrons of the Craftsman.' in which both Pulteney and Bolingbroke were severely attacked. In answer to this Pulteney wrote 'A Proper Reply to a late Scurrilous Libel,' &c., referring to Hervey in the most offensive terms. The quarrel ended in a duel, which took place 'in the Upper St. James's Park, behind Arlington Street' (now the Green Park), on 25 Jan. 1731, when both the combatants were slightly wounded, and Pulteney would have ran Hervey through the body but for a slip of his foot, when the seconds intervened (Coxe, Memoirs of Sir Robert Walpole, iii. 88-9). According to Coxe the pamphlet was really written by Sir William Yonge, 'as he himself informed the late Lord Hardwicke' (ib. i. 363 n.), but Hervey probably wrote the ‘Dedication' (see Hervey, Memoirs, i. xxxvi). In January 1732 Hervey opposed Lord Morpeth's amendment for the reduction of the army (Parl. Hist. viii. 882-7), and by a writ dated 11 June 1733 was called up to the House of Lords in his father's barony (Journals of the House of Lords, xxiv. 307). Here he was an active advocate of the ministry. As the familiar intimate of the queen Hervey rendered Walpole invaluable service. Though only vice-chamberlain Hervey's influence at court was great, and it was owing mainly to this influence that Walpole governed the queen, and through her the king. On the queen's death in November 1737 Hervey, who had been dissatisfied from the first with his household appointment, urged his claims for preferment upon Walpole. The Duke of Newcastle protested against Hervey's claims, on the ground of their mutual dislike, in a letter to Lord Hardwicke of 14 Oct. 1739 (Mahon, Hist. of England, iii. 21). Though the duke threatened to resign, the difficulty was at length overcome, and on 1 May 1740 Hervey was appointed lord privy seal in the place of Lord Godolphin. In February 1741 he strenuously opposed Lord Carteret’s motion for the removal of Sir Robert Wapole (Parl. Hist. xi. 1214-15). But in January of the following year Horace Walpole records that, though Hervey was ‘too ill to go to operas, yet, with a coffin-face, is as full of his little dirty politics as ever. He will not be well enough to go to the house ‘till the majority is certain somewhere, but lives shut up with my Lord Chesterfield and Mr. Pulteney' (Letters, i. 114; see also Chesterfield, Letters, v. 444). Sir Robert Walpole resigned in February, but Hervey clung to his office, and in May helped to reject the Indemnification Bill (Parl. Hist. xii. 646, 667-73). He was, however, dismissed from his office in July, and was succeeded by Lord Gower.

Hervey now went into opposition, and in February 1743 supported Lord Stanhope’s motion for the dismissal of the Hanoverian troops (ib. 1063-4, 1102-16). In the same session he distinguished himself by his spirited opposition to the Gin Bill. His health had, however, been gradually failing, and he died, in the lifetime of his father, on 5 Aug. 1743, aged 46, and was buried at Ickworth on the 12th of the same month.

Hervey was a clever and unprincipled man, of loose morals and skeptical opinions. He was an effective though somewhat pompous speaker, a ready writer, and a keen observer of character. His wit and charm of manner made him a special favourite of women. Effeminate in appearance as well as in habits, he is described by the Duchess of Marlborough as having ‘a painted face, and not a tooth in his head’ (The Opinions of Sarah, Duchess-Dowager of Marlborough, 1788, p. 43; see also Lord Hailes’s note ib. and Autobiography of Mrs. Delany, 1861, i. 544).

Throughout his life Hervey suffered from bad health, which his father ascribed to the use of ‘that detestable and poisonous plant, tea, which had once brought him to death’s door, and if persisted in would carry him through it' (Memoirs, i. xxvii). A liability to epileptic attacks induced him to adopt a strict regimen, of which he gives a detailed account in a letter to his physician, Dr. Cheyne (ib. i. xlvii). The intimate terms of his friendship with the queen were remarkable, and he relates that she used to call him ‘her child, her pupil, and her charge,' and to frequently say,' It is well I am so old, or I should be talked of for this creature' (ib. ii. 46). He is said also to have ‘made a deep impression on the heart of the virtuous Princess Caroline' (Walpole,Letters, i. cxxxvi.) The cause of the deadly quarrel between Hervey and Pope is obscure, but was probably owing to their rivalry for the good graces of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. Pope dated the estrangement as far back as 1725, and sneeringly alludes to Hervey in his ‘Miscellanies,' 1727, and in the first edition of the ‘Dunciad,' 1728. In 1733 he published his ‘ Imitation of the First Satire of the Second Book of Horace,' in which he grossly attacked Lady Mary by the name of ‘Sappho,' and bestowed the contemptuous nickname of `Lord Fanny' on Hervey. In reply to these attacks ‘Verses addressed to the Imitator of Horace' shortly afterward appeared. Lady Mary and Hervey were generally supposed to be joint authors, though there is some evidence in favour of Hervey's sole authorship (Memoirs, i. xxxix-xl; but see Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. iii. 325-6, where it is suggested that Lady Mary was the sole author; and compare Pope's letter to Swift of 2 April 1733 in Swift, Works, 1814, xviii. 166). In the same year Hervey also attacked Pope in ‘An Epistle to a Doctor of Divinity from a nobleman at Hampton Court.' Pope retorted in the first instance with his bitter ‘Letter to a Noble Lord,' &c. (Pope,Works, ed. Roscoe, 1824, ix. 459-84), dated 30 Nov. 1733, and in 1735 renewed the attack in his famous assault upon ‘Sporus' in the ‘Epistle to Arbuthnot,' Hervey retained his old friendship with Lady Mary until his death, and a number of his letters to her are preserved at Ickworth, while her letters to him were returned to Lady Mary by his eldest son after Hervey’s death (Lady M. W. Montagu, Works, i. 95). Hervey carefully omits from his memoirs the cause of his quarrel with the Prince of Wales, which commenced at the end of 1731, but in all probability it arose out of their rivalry for the favours of Miss Vane, maid of honour to the queen, and sister of Henry, first earl of Darlington.

By his wife Hervey had eight children. Three sons, George William [q.v.], Augustus John [q.v.], and Frederick Augustus [q.v.], successively became earls of Bristol, while the fourth son, William, born on 13 May 1732, became a general in the army, and died on 15 Jan. 1815. Lepell, their eldest daughter, married Constantine Phipps, afterwards created Baron Mulgrave, and died suddenly at the admiralty, aged 57, on 9 March 1780, Mary became the wife of George Fitzgerald, and was burnt to death on 9 April 1815, aged 89. Emily Caroline Nassau died unmarried on 11 June 1814, aged 80; and Caroline, whose beauty is celebrated in Churchill’s `Times,’ died, also unmarried, on 1 March 1819, aged 83.

There is a full-length portrait of Hervey in the National Protrait Gallery. It was painted by J. B. Van Loo in 1741, and engraved in the same year by John Faber, jun. Another portrait, by an unknown artist, was lent by Mr. F. Hanbury Williams to the Loan Collection of National Portraits at South Kensington in 1867 (Cat. No. 257). There is also a portrait of Ickworth. An engraving of Hervey is given in Harding’s `Series of Protraits to illustrate the Earl of Orford’s Catalogue of Royal and Noble Authors,' 1803, and busts of Hervey are prefixed to the ‘Memoirs,’ 1884, and the `Letters between Lord Hervey and Dr. Middleton concerning the Roman Senate,' 1778. The manuscript of the memoirs, which is wholly autograph, is in the possession of the Marquis of Bristol. Several sheets of it, probably containing additional particulars of the dissensions among the royal family, have unfortunately been destroyed by its former possessors. The third earl left strict injunctions in his will that the ‘Memoirs' were not to be published until after the death of George III, and they did not appear until 1848. Their close and minute portraiture of court life and intrigue renders them indispensable to the student of the first ten years of George II. Hervey's style, though somewhat elaborated, is lively and forcible. Throughout his writings, which in many ways bear a curious resemblance to those of Horace Walpole, a bitter tone of cynicism and a morbid spirit of universal detraction are always apparent. Though Middleton published his share of the correspondence with Hervey on the mode of electing the Roman senate in 1747, Hervey's letters were not printed until 1778, when they were edited by T. Knowles.

The laboured panegyric by which Middleton dedicated his life of Cicero to Hervey in 1741 is satirized in the fourth book of the ‘Dunciad' (lines 103-4). From the correspondence preserved at Ickworth it appears that the assertion made in Park's edition of ‘Noble Autors' (iv. 202-3), on the authority of Seward's ‘Anecdotes,' that the extracts from Cicero’s orations in Middleton's ‘Life' were translated by Hervey is incorrect. Hervey's pamphlets are pronounced by Horace Walpole as being ‘equal to any that ever were written,' and by some of them he rendered very effective service to the government of Sir Robert Walpole. A few of Hervey's poems were collected together, with those of James Hammond [q.v.], and published in 1808 and 1818. Several of his poetical pieces will be found in Dodsley's ‘Collection of Poems,' 1782, iii. 194-204, iv. 85-116, v. 159-68, and in the ‘New Foundling Hospital for Wit,' 1784, i. 239-43 (see also Gent. Mag. 1796, vol. lxvi. pt. i. p. 509). Besides the ‘Memoirs,' the ‘Letters to Dr. Middleton,' and several poems, Hervey is said to have left behind in a manuscript ‘Agrippina, a Tragedy in Rhyme' (Park, Walpole, iv. 201). He was author of the following works: 1. ‘An Answer to the Occasional Writer. No. II [with an] Appendix, being the Answer to the Occasional Writer, No. I,' anon., London, 1727, 8vo. 2. ‘The Occasional Writer, No. IV. To his Imperial Majesty.' 3. ‘Observations on the Writings of the Craftsman' [i.e. on Lord Bolingbroke’s letters on English history], anon., London, 1730, 8vo. 4. Sequel of the last pamphlet, anon., London, 1730, 8vo. 5. ‘Farther Observations on the Writings of the Craftsman ... ,' anon., London, 1730, 8vo. 6. ‘Remarks on the Craftsman's Vindication of his two honble. patrons, in his paper of May 22, 1731,' 2nd edit., anon., London, 1731, 8vo. This has also been ascribed to William Arnall. 7. ‘Letter to Mr. D’Anvers on his reply to "Sedition and Defamation displayed,"' London, 1731, 8vo. 8. ‘Some Remarks on the Minute Philosopher [by G. Berkeley, bishop of Cloyne, q.v.] In a Letter from a Country Clergyman to his friend in London,' anon., London, 1732, 8vo; 2nd edit., London, 1732, 8vo. 9. ‘The Publick Virtue of former Times and the Present Age compared,’ London, 1732, 8vo. 10. ‘The Case of the Revivial of the Salt Duty, fully stated and considered; with some remarks on the Present State of Affairs...In a Letter from a Member of the House of Commons to a Gentleman in the Country,’ London, 1732, 8vo. 11. `A Letter to the Craftsman on the Game of Chess. Occasioned by his paper of the fifteenth of this month,' anon., London, 1732, 8vo. 12. ‘An Epistle from Nobleman to a Doctor of Divinity [Dr. Sherwin] in Answer to a Latin Letter in Verse. Written from H*****n C***t [Hampton Court], Aug. 28, 1733,' London 1733, fol. Reprinted in `Tit for Tat,' &c., 1734, pp. 7-11. 13. `A Summary Account of the State of Dunkirk, and the Negotiations relating thereto; in a Letter from a Member of Parliament to the Mayor of the Borough for which he serves,' 1733. 14. `Ancient and Modern Liberty stated and compar'd,' anon., London, 1734, 8vo. 15. `The Conduct of the Opposition and the tendency of modern patriotism (more particularly in a late scheme to establish a military government in this country) review'd and examin'd,' anon., London, 1734, 8vo. Written by Hervey at the desire of the king and queen, and corrected by Sir Robert Walpole (Memoirs, i. 288). 16. ‘An Answer to the Country Parson’s Plea against the Quakers’ Tythe-bill. In a Letter to the R. R. Author. By a Member of the House of Commons,' London [1736], 8vo; 2nd edit., corrected, 1736. Reprinted in the `Pillars of Priestcraft and Orthodoxy shaken.’ edited by Richard Baron. 1768, ii. 109-225. 17. `Speech for the Army.’ 1737. 18. ‘Letter to the "Author of Common Sense. or the Englishman’s Journal of Saturday, April 16, 1737."’ 19. ‘Bolingbroke’s Address to Ambition in imitation of the first Ode of the fourth Book of Horace,' 1737. 20. ‘An Examination of the facts and Reasonings contained in a Pamphlet entitled "A Letter from a Member of Parliament to his Friend in the Country upon the motion to address his Mahesty to settle 100,000l. per annum on his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales,"' 1739. This pamphlet was written by Hervey in 1737. Some of the most remarkable passages were furnished by Sir Robert Walpole (Coxe, i. 532). 21. `A Satire in the manner of Persius; in a Dialogue between Atticus and Eugenio. By a Person of Quality,' anon., London, 1739, fol. 22. ‘A Letter to Mr. Cibber on his Letter to Mr. Pope,' 1742. 23. `The Difference between Verbal and Practical Virtue, exemplified in some instances both ancient and modern; with a prefatory Epistle from Mr. Cibber to Mr. Pope,' 1742. 24. `Miscellaneous Thoughts on the present Posture both of our Foreign and Domestic Affairs. Humbly offer'd to the consideration of the Parliament and the People,' anon., London, 1742, 8vo. 25. `The S * * * te M * * * r’s are come; or a new Doctor for a Crazy Constitution. A New Ballad to the tune of Derry down’ [1742], fol. 26. ‘A New C * * * * * t [cabinet] Ballad' [on J. Carteret, earl Granville, and the change of ministry in January 1742], anon., Dublin, 1742, fol.; another edit., Dublin, 1742, 8vo. 27. ‘The Question stated with regard to our Army in Flanders; and the Arguments for and against the measure compared,' anon., London, 1743, 8vo. 28. ‘Three Speeches on the Gin Act'[1743 (?)]. 29. ‘Letters between Lord Hervey and Dr. Middleton concerning the Roman Senate. Published from the original manuscripts by Thomas Knowles, D.D., Rector of Ickworth, Suffolk,' London, 1778, 4to. 30. ‘Memoirs of the Reign of George the Second, from his Accession to the Death of Queen Caroline. Edited from the original Manuscript by J. W. Croker,' London, 1848, 8vo ; another edit., London, 1884, 8vo. According to Park’s edition of Walpole, the following pieces were also published by Hervey; 31. ‘Speech on the Bill to prevent the settling more Lands in Mortmain.’ 32. ‘A Protest against protesting with Reasons.' 33. ‘The Lord’s Protest.' 34. ‘Account of Queen Anne’s Bounty.' 35. ‘Letter to the Bishop of Bangor on his late Sermon upon Horses and Asses.' 36. ‘On the Pyramids. To Mrs. * * *.' 37. `A Letter from a Country Gentleman to his Friend in London concerning two Collections of Letters and Messages lately published between the K., Q., Pr., and Prss.' 38. Epitaph on Queen Caroline, in Latin and English.

[Lord Hervey’s Memoirs, 1884; Horace Walpole’s Letters, ed. Cunningham; Coxe’s Memoirs of Sir Robert Walpole, 1798; Opinions of Sarah, Duchess-Dowager of Marlborough, 1788, pp. 42-44, 95; Letters and Works of Lady M. W. Montafu, 1861, i. 94-5, 457, ii. 460-2; Mrs. Thomson’s Memoirs of Lady Sundon, 1847; Lord Mahon’s Hist. of England, 1858, vols. ii. iii.; Gage’s Hist. of Suffolk, Thingoe Hundred, 1838, pp. 288, 297-9, 306, 308,318; Horace Walpole’s Cat. of Royal and Noble Authors (Park), iv. 197-206; Halkett and Laing’s Dict. of Anon. and Pseudeon. Lit., 1882-8; Edinburgh Review, lxxxviii. 488-513; Quarterly Review, lxxxii. 501-42; Collins’s peerage of England, 1812, iv. 155-8; Gent. Mag. 1740 x. 204, 260, 1741 xi. 275, 1742 xii. 162, 387, 1743 xiii. 443; Grad. Cantabr. 1823, p. 231; Alumni Westmon. 1852, pp. 273, 544; Haydn’s Book of Dignities, 1851; Official Return of Lists of Members of Parliament, pt. ii. pp. 55, 67; Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. iii. 325-6, 3rd ser. iv. 265, 474; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

G. F. R. B.